Empowered Women Empower Women
CALLING ALL WOMEN: EMPOWER EACH OTHER, IT’S ABOUT TIME
Written by Anna Roos Van Wijngaarden (@roosvineyard)
After decades of battling for a more equal society, the business share of the female sex is finally starting to seriously increase. Countries are taking on formal measures to ensure equality on corporate boards, women now own 36% of small businesses worldwide, and women launch more than 1,200 new businesses every single day in the US alone. The highest proportion of women-owned firms is a whopping 1.3 million, in California – the inspirational location of our latest collection.
Keeping this in mind, support from other women is still not self-evident. Many female entrepreneurs are being criticised for their “manly” characteristics and success when doing business – especially by the same sex. Why is this the case, and how can we ensure a healthy, supportive environment in which businesswomen don’t feel like enemies in competition with each other, but feel connected, proud, and strong?
The basis of the problem goes back to a masochist system that was established centuries ago. Already back then, the values assigned to women stemmed from a vertical hierarchy with culturally imposed physical standards. Women’s place in society – as mothers, as beautiful assets, as caretakers, functioned as an expression of power relations in which women had to naturally compete for the resources men had appropriated for themselves.
Beauty, as so strikingly addressed by Naomi Wolf in her book The Beauty Myth – plays a key role in this story. She explains that the female responsibility to be pure and beautiful on the outside and inside, was always there to firmly keep men in power – even if they don’t have explicit negative intentions towards women.
Because female worth is still associated with appearance, this reduces their chances to get powerful job positions. One quarter of a woman’s income goes to self-preservation; the few women who are finally learning as much as men are forced to pay themselves significantly less through this seemingly superficial income discrimination. Moreover, young, naturally beautiful women are being blamed for having gotten her job simply because of their looks, whereas older women lose ground because time is making it hard for them to look good.
The same beauty-rating system is also the driver of hostility among women. History taught men to stick together and women to be cautious with supporting each other. After all, they were hunting down the same potential suitable husbands they would depend on for the rest of their lives. Women tend to criticise each other because they still feel threatened by each other’s success and beauty. The same happens when women show masculine behavior or a lack of feminine characteristics such as empathy, altruism, patience, and softness. We women were taught to monitor the collective purity of our womanhood as if it is all we had – because it was. But times have changed.
Women rarely benefit from the experience that makes men’s organisations hold together – another subtle loop that keeps the sexes where they are in business and wider society. A total shame, as the solidarity of belonging to a group whose members might not be personal friends outside, but who are united in interest, agenda, or worldview – is so powerful. If women would put their outdated expectations aside and treat every other woman as they would treat successful businessmen, there would be female synergy. Think of what we could create as a society if we made space for feminine skills in business, the ones that come so natural to them – such as aptitude for learning, integrity, the ability to build relationships, adaptability, and creativity.
Due to old patterns and ways of thinking, female entrepreneurs have a hard time ruling this world. Especially the ones that are young, smart, and seem to have it all. Women should be empowering other women. After all, it is a female-owned privilege to thrive on relations – to use love and connectedness as a weapon to courageously create sky-is-the-limit projects with significant monetary intangible results.
Encourage that neighbour that keeps talking about her small business idea. Cheer at that feisty, assertive woman in your town that other women gossip about. Openly communicate your female role models. Support your sisters. The new way of doing gender-fair business is on the horizon. We just need to make individual efforts to push the dawn.
Show your appreciation for the women in your life. Say thank you, give and accept compliments, and help out the women around you. A simple gesture can make someone’s day and boost their self-esteem. It is important to speak up if you witness any injustice; show your support. It is a good idea to encourage your friends to speak up too, so they understand the value of their opinions and feel free to express themselves. Empowered women contribute greatly to society and are a key element to its growth. It is important to not forget that empowering women doesn’t put them above men; it promotes gender equality, and women supporting other women is the key to its success.